If you’re about to have your first root canal, you’re probably feeling a bit apprehensive. After all, root canals are painful, right? In reality, root canals have evolved into relatively comfortable dental treatments. Read on to learn everything you need to know about root canals.
Why are root canals necessary?
Root canals remove decay and dying tissue from inside a tooth. It’s often the only way a dentist can save a tooth that’s infected due to an untreated cavity or an injury. The infection deep inside the tooth must be removed or else the tooth will need to be extracted leaving a gap in your mouth. In some cases, a tooth may be too severely decayed for a root canal to be a viable treatment option. In those cases, you’ll be referred to an oral surgeon for an extraction.
How are root canals performed?
First, the dentist or endodontist will numb the area around the tooth so you don’t feel discomfort during the procedure. A dental dam will be placed on the tooth to keep it clean and dry.
Next, the dentist will use a series of very small tools to create an opening on the top of the tooth, allowing access to the inside. Tiny files will be used to clean out the infection and decayed pulp from inside the tooth. Water will be used to irrigate the tooth and wash away any remaining infection. An antibacterial solution may be put into the chamber to prevent further infection.
Once the tooth has been thoroughly cleaned and dried, a rubber-like substance call gutta-percha will be used to fill the hole. A temporary filling will close the hole in the top of your tooth.
A permanent crown will need to be made for the treated tooth. It may take a few weeks for the crown to be made. When it’s ready, you’ll come back to the dentist office to have the crown placed on the tooth. Depending on the condition of your tooth, your dentist may have to include a supportive post inside the root chamber to support the crown.
How long do root canals last?
A root canal will usually last as long as your other teeth. Occasionally, a tooth that has been treated will become painful or even reinfected. At that point, you’ll need to have the tooth retreated. If the infection persists, you may have no other choice than to extract the tooth.
Root canal vs. extraction
While an extraction may seem like a simpler, more straightforward treatment option, there are drawbacks. Obviously, if the tooth is in the front of your mouth, you’ll be left with a gap in your smile. And even if the tooth is in the back of your mouth, you may encounter difficulty chewing food or the rest of your teeth may start to drift into the space left by the extracted tooth. This can create problems with your bite or jaw alignment.
Replacing a missing tooth can also be rather invasive and expensive. Dental implants are a permanent option to replace a natural tooth. If you don’t opt for an implant, dentures, partials or bridges are also options, but they can be difficult to care for and some people find them uncomfortable. That’s why it’s always better to save a natural tooth when possible.
Are root canals painful?
You’ve probably heard root canals compared to something you really don’t want to do or might find painful. For example, “I’d rather have a root canal than speak in front of a large group.” But in actuality, root canals aren’t so bad. Modern dentistry makes the experience relatively comfortable, and you shouldn’t experience much pain after the treatment. If you do feel discomfort, an over-the-counter pain reliever will help or your dentist can write a prescription for a stronger pain reliever.
If you’re still nervous about the procedure, talk to your dentist about sedation options that will help lower your anxiety during treatment.
More questions about root canals? Will be happy to discuss the topic in greater detail during an appointment. Call 352-989-5815 today to schedule a consultation.